22 October 2005


Using the parts inside a single molecule, scientists have constructed the world's smallest car. It has a chassis, axles and a pivoting suspension. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece.

[. . .]

This is the next big thing in the health care industry and also the vehicle to build infrastructure in inhospitable climates. Just an aside, nanomachines can also be used as a weapon as I illustrated in Technocracy. Nanotechnology is the next frontier. I feel like I did when I was young, watching the Apollo missions to the Moon. Oh the possibilities . . .

Great thanks to the Renegade. Cross-posted at the Brain.

10 October 2005

Not good

Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp became the largest auto firm in US history to declare bankruptcy when it announced it was seeking Chapter 11 protection for its US divisions.

While Delphi and its former parent company, General Motors, insisted that there would be no supply interruptions, the move is certain to reverberate across the industry.

[. . .]

This is not good from where I sit. Even though I bitch about Delphi's (and GM's) quality and their downhill spiral since 1973, this opens the door for even less dependable manufacturers. I'm of the 'Better The Devil You Know' school. Not only that, but GM talks bullshit when they say there'll be no interruptions.

[. . .]

Delphi may be the largest, but it is not the first US supplier to seek bankruptcy protection as a result of stiff competition from abroad and shrinking demand for American cars.

It employs some 185,000 workers, including 35,000 in the United States. [Link]

[. . .]

You know there will be layoffs, and while current year manufacture might not be affected. God help them if they have to retool a part thanks to recall. I remember in '92 (not long after Ford bought control of Mazda) the Probes of that year (built by Mazda) had a bad run of vehicle speed sensors. They started going bad a couple months in (December '91 -January '92) and the recall began shortly after. Some cars were inoperative for months until capacity could catch up with demand.

Also something to ponder, the American taxpayer will probably have to pick up the tab for Delphi's pension commitment.

[. . .]

Delphi, which lost $4.8 billion last year, said that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) could take over the company's pension obligations, but the federal agency might not guarantee the full amount. For a retiree under age 65, the maximum benefit is $1,710.51 per month or $20,526.12 per year, an amount lower than the typical payout to Delphi workers.

[. . .]

This could be the beginning of the end of GM. Look for Buick and Pontiac to go the way of the Oldsmobile shortly, probably within 5 years.

06 October 2005

The $800 car . . . the reasons

I got customers in this cycle. It pains me to see them agonize over whether to fix a car they promised me they'd only run for the summer, the winter, until I find another one, you've grown to love it, whatever. I have a guy with an '85 Olds Custom Cruiser or some shit. You know the one, the big fat station wagon with the redwood trees on the side. V-8 of course, carbureted, a million miles on it. 5 years ago, he bought it 'just to get him through the winter'. 5 years ago. He's put more money into the fucking thing in the last 5 years, he could have bought 2 new ones . . . cash.

Every year it gets harder to get it though emissions inspection and every year it costs him more money. We beg him to get rid of it. I offered him $500 bucks for it just to get it away from him. Nope. He's got thousands into it and he can't bear to walk away from the investment. Rule: A car is not, never was, never will be, an investment. I don't give a shit if it's a classic, antique, whatever, you'll always sink more money into it than you ever get out of it.

Like the guy with the 20 year old Coupe DeVille with the 4100 HT motor (junk when it was new; we say the 'HT' stands for 'hand-tight') and a million miles on it and would rather stick close to a grand into it for a water pump and radiator instead of taking the plates off it and calling the scrap yard. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a good mechanic. If he'd go to some of the other clowns in the area, the thing would be in the junkyard by now.

Anyway, try to stay out of the cycle of dumping money into a piece of shit. If you can buy new, do it and get rid of it before the warranty runs out. If you have to buy used, get the newest car you can and try to stick to the solid nameplates. And always, always have your mechanic look at a used car before any money changes hands.

The $800 car . . . revisited

Since I'm on the subject of used cars, let me talk to you about the side benefits of leasing. Every three years (generally) people turn in their lease cars. It might behoove you to check the local dealerships for any off-lease cars they might have. If they have a sharp sales manager, he'll sell it to you for a little more than the residual value of the vehicle.

We're talking relatively low mileage vehicles that have been just turned in. I know there are some lucky folks out there who got the last 4 of my wife's cars when they came off lease. Think about getting a $40,000 vehicle for a little over $19K, that was taken care of, with only 25,000 miles on it. Granted, they're V-8s and with the price of gas nowadays, but you get my point. Good cars like this come off lease every day and banks are happy to give 5 year loans on 'em.

Figure the $800 bucks you were prepared to pay for a car, the first couple oil changes and a brake job on the cheap car (necessary expenditures), and you've got a pretty good down payment. You can find a good $10,000 car out there that will last you a long time (if you change the oil, say it with me, EVERY 3000 MILES) and won't break down every other week.

It's just a thought if you can swing it. It might save money in the long run. A 3 year old Honda Accord, for example, should give you 10-12 good years with minimal repair costs. Same with Toyota's Camry and Nissan's Maxima. The Taurus (make sure it's a 6 cylinder) is no slouch either. Good reliable vehicles all that take a small bite out of your wallet at the pump and the repair shop.

05 October 2005

So you wanna drive in New York?

(Hunts Point, The Bronx - WABC, October 4, 2005) - A tanker truck burst into flames near the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx Tuesday afternoon - shutting down the roadway and bringing some rail service to a halt. One person lost his life- the driver of the truck.
Police identified the driver as Harbey Munez, 46, of Queens. No other injuries were reported.

The accident is still causing major traffic trouble, and commuters who use the Bruckner Expressway are being warned to steer clear of the accident area Wednesday morning. Northbound lanes on the Bruckner Expressway are closed starting at Sheridan Avenue along with the southbound lanes at the Throgs Neck extension. Also, lanes in both directions on Bruckner Boulevard are closed from 138th Street to Hunts Point Avenue.

[. . .]

Traffic's gonna be fucked up for months as they fix the roadway.

02 October 2005

The $800 car

I know some of you say, 'F-man, you elitist, pretentious bastid, not everybody can afford to buy a new car. Some people have to by cheap cars because it's all they have to spend'.


If you're gonna spend money on a high-mileage and/or old car, fine. Have your mechanic look at it and make sure it's safe and won't break down next week. Thing is, don't sink money into it. If something breaks that costs say . . . more than $100 to fix, get rid of it and get another cheap shit to drive until it breaks. Oil changes and wear items (batteries, brakes, belts, bulbs, etc don't count).

Rule of thumb: Never put more money into a car than it's worth. If your mechanic says it needs a timing belt or a water pump and it'll cost $500, tell him to take the license plates off it and junk the thing. Ask him to find you antoehr cheap pice of shit to run until it dies.

Recognize the $800 car for what it is, temporary transportation. The only people who should really consider fixing cheap cars are folks who can do the work themselves. (Example, my old Hyundai Excel. I got it for nothing but the head was so warped I had to do a new head gasket every couple months. It was $16 for the gasket and it got to where it took me 20 minutes to change. I did nothing else to the car and threw it away after a couple years). Never, never buy one because you love the thing. Buy it because it starts and runs. At that point it doesn't matter what make or model it is, you just want it to run. When it stops running, get rid of it.